Rev. Dick is pastor of the First Protestant Reformed Church of Edmonton, AB, Canada.
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
When light passes through a suitable prism it is diffracted or dispersed so that one can see a whole spectrum of different colors. So, when the light of God’s Word shines into the believing mind, the effect of it is that the believer can see a whole variety of colors. These are the colors of the gospel. Our text, in fact, is very colorful! God grant us grace rightly to divide the Word and to see its many colors.
Black and White
Black and white are two colors one never sees in the natural light spectrum, but they are colors, nevertheless, which the believer must see first if he is to understand God’s Word.
When we talk as believers of the “black and white” of things, we are using these colors to express our understanding of truth. By speaking in terms of black and white we say that truth can be clearly distinguished from all that it is not. Just as black can be easily distinguished from white, so, we believe, truth can be easily distinguished from the lie.
The black and white of Psalm 1 is the truth of the blessed man. To teach this the psalmist speaks first of all of the godliness of the blessed man. The blessed man is godly. And his godly life is distinguished from the life of all others. There are godly men, and there are the ungodly.
Ungodly men are described in our text in three ways. They are ungodly. That is, they are unholy and unrighteous, unlike God who is holy and righteous. They are sinners: those who disobey God’s law. They are scorners: those who mock God and holy things.
The Psalm teaches that the ungodly are thoroughlyungodly. They have an ungodly heart. Arising from an ungodly heart are ungodly thoughts and desires. From these come ungodly plans or “counsels” (we call them “schemes”) to sin and get others to sin. Besides, the ungodly man walks in a “way” or life of sin. In his home, at work, at play, the ungodly man lives in sin. To promote his sinful way the ungodly man has a “seat.” His seat is where he likes to be. He sits where he can sin and mock openly and freely and with others of like mind.
But the godly are not so. They are . . . godly! They are image-bearers of God. God has graced them anew with true knowledge of God, righteousness, and holiness. They have the mind of Christ. They have, like David, a heart after God’s own heart.
Being godly, the godly do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. That is, they do not listen to their advice. Nor do the godly stand in the way of sinners. That is, they do not live a life of sin. Further, the godly do not sit in the seat of the scornful. That is, they have no fellowship with sinners.
Positively, the godly do the good. They bear good fruit, verse 3 teaches. They serve God. They walk in the way of a life of good works. They fellowship with those who are godly that they may encourage godliness among themselves.
The text emphasizes that the godliness of the blessed man is seen especially in his delighting in the law of the Lord (v. 2). The law here may be interpreted to include the ten commandments, the promises, and indeed the whole counsel of God revealed in the Scriptures. The godly man loves the promises, loves the gospel, takes pleasure in the revelation of God as Savior in Jesus Christ. And he shows this delight in meditation upon it. He takes time to think on it, contemplate it, study, reflect, pray over it. Indeed, the godly man meditates upon the law of the Lord day and night, according to the text. This does not mean that the godly man is a monastery man. No, the godly man lives in the world, and has an earthly calling. But his meditation is, nevertheless, regular, constant, consistent. And the godliness gained through meditation is seen in all his life.
Thus the godly man is distinct from the ungodly. There is a sharp contrast between the two. The ungodly is in no wise godly. The godly man is not ungodly. He is still a sinner, with only a small beginning of the new obedience. But he is godly. God has made him that way. And that is the black and white of it.
A Rainbow of Colors
Being enabled, by faith, to see the black and white of things, we can discern many other colors in our text. These are the colors of the blessedness itself of the godly man.
What colors do we see in our text? All the colors of the rainbow! This is because the blessedness of which the text speaks is covenant blessedness. It is the blessedness of God being our Friend. According toGenesis 9, one beautiful sign of covenant blessedness, and therefore of the friendship of God, is the rainbow.
Just as there are many beautiful colors in the rainbow, so also, many and beautiful are the blessings of God’s covenant friendship enjoyed by godly men. The psalmist rejoices in this when he cries out, literally, “O the blessedness” of the godly man! The blessednesses are described in verse 3. They are the blessednesses of the covenant life. The psalmist compares the covenant life with God to the life of a tree planted by the rivers of water. There may be desert and drought all around, but the godly man is as a tree with an abundant and wonderful water supply. The rivers are the life-giving Spirit, the Word, and the grace of God. The godly man is planted there, by these rivers—taken out of the contaminated soil of humanity and engrafted by faith into the new humanity in Christ. There the godly man is rooted so that the life of God courses through him, he knows this God, he enjoys this God. There by the rivers are peace, happiness, joy, and hope. And there by the rivers, is a grove—many trees. This is God’s oasis, the church of Jesus Christ.
And there by the rivers is prosperity. The rivers cause the godly man to bring forth fruit in his season—good fruit. And his leaf does not wither; his life does not ebb. Indeed, due to the life of God coursing through him, the godly man prospers in all he does. In poverty, in a drought of material goods, through striking his roots deep into Christ and reaching for the waters, the godly man still flourishes. In death itself, there is the rich eternal life of heaven on the other side.
Then there is this blessedness: the blessing of being able and willing to serve God. That is the blessedness of which the psalmist sings first of all in this psalm, in verse 2. The blessed godly man has the riverside life, a house on the rivers of grace. He is so glad for this, so thankful to his God, that his chief delight is to honor this God. And thus, to obey God, to live the godly life, is in itself a great blessing to the godly man. God’s law, and doing it, is his delight, his meditation, his blessing.
Would the godly man fully appreciate God’s rainbow of blessings to him he must always remember the black and white of his blessedness. The black and white of it is this: there are only certain ones who receive these blessings. Covenant blessings are for God’s elect only. The portion of the ungodly reprobate is cursing. Many grow up, even in the church, but they are not planted by the rivers of water, they bring forth no good fruit, they delight not in the law of the Lord. These are under God’s curse. And, like the chaff which is separated from the wheat in the time of harvest, so the ungodly will be separated from God’s godly elect in the day of judgment when they are blown, by the wind of God’s wrath, to hell.
But why? That is the question the godly man asks when he perceives the black and white of the rainbow. Why is the rainbow for me? I am just as ungodly in myself as the sinner given over to sin. What is the reason for my godliness and blessedness?
The reason is the Godly Man, Jesus Christ. Jesus, God’s appointed Mediator, came to earth to save us. While on earth He never sinned. He in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily was always godly. He ever delighted in the law of the Lord—day and night! And as Mediator He did this all for us.
He went obediently even to the cross for us, paying the penalty for our sins. Yes, there at the cross was red. The first color of the rainbow. The most important color: red. Blood-red. Blood shed for us. The blood, the red of the covenant.
And Christ was blessed! That is, the Father honored Jesus’ perfect, atoning death. He raised Him from the dead, He seated Him at His right hand, and gave Him all power and authority to rule and to gather and defend and glorify His church.
Therefore, we are blessed! Justified by His blood!
Thus there is black and white. All the colors of the rainbow. And red. Let us be thankful that God has given faith to see and take a stand about the black and white of things. Let us be warned when the devil and the world want us to see gray where there is black and white. Let us rejoice in God’s covenant blessings, so manifold in our life, and even painted in the sky in rainbows. Let us trust in the blood of Christ only, the shedding of which is our salvation.
But more. There is a deeper reason yet for our salvation. That is the love of God. It is a love whereby God knew us and chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Love explains why Christ would die for ungodly ones such as we are in Adam. Love explains the electing distinction of God, the rainbow, and the red. That God loves us is why God keeps us in the right way of faith, repentance, and godliness. Love is why there is heaven.
And what is the color of love? No color compares. God is love. Worship and bow down.